Looking back over the field he has dominated for half a century, Kermode’s words are unminced. Universities, he says, “are being driven by madmen”. And education in general “is being run by lunatics”.
The recent A-level and GCSE statistics, I point out, would indicate that at one level, at least, his subject is increasingly popular. “Well,” he replies, “I don’t know what they call ‘English’ now. I can understand the attractiveness of it. But I don’t hold the view that reading English is a soft option, or at least it shouldn’t be. It should be a severe option, restricted to those people who are qualified to do it. I’ve been out of touch with student life for a long time. But I don’t believe that many people nowadays get many visible benefits from studying English. It doesn’t do them any harm, of course.”
Is he suggesting that English should be re-engineered to be more in line with currently unpopular “hard” subjects – like physics? “Yes…”
But what will people take when they can’t decide what else to do? Have you ever thought about the idly rich, Frank? Don’t they deserve to have an excuse to be at school drinking before taking over the family business of buying things?